Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Human Nature and Technology (Option 2)

Before attempting to understand the relationship between technology and human nature, one must look closer at the definition of human nature. According to an article on Wikipedia, human nature is the range of human behavior that is believed to be normal and/or invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts.” Also, according to John Locke’s philosophy of empiricism, human nature is tabula rasa, or in simpler terms, a blank slate without rules. If one is to adhere to these definitions of human nature, it would be conclusive to argue that human nature and technology are both related to each other, but in different ways. In one sense, it can be argued that technology and its implications will have an impact on what could be considered “normal” human behavior. But according to Locke’s view, human nature begins with no rules and therefore, technology would essentially create what is human nature.
From the beginning and continuing into the present, technology has always been created so as to make human existence simpler and easier, specifically against the forces of nature. Most often people perceive technology as a cell phone or a computer. Although these are both a part of technology, they do not demonstrate the true purpose of technology, which is, to ensure a greater chance of survival, be it from the forces of nature or shear boredom. One of the earliest weapons, the first spear, made by man not only enabled him to hunt and feed his family but also protect them. Eventually as technology and society progressed, the need for technology became a necessity for greater comfort as opposed to survival against nature.
Although technology is a derivation of human creation, it’s interesting to see that human nature is essentially altered and possibly defined by the implications of technology in human lifestyle. As humans are social animals, much of our greatest innovations have resulted as a need to communicate with others in the most efficient and time-saving manner. In retrospect to the 19th century, it is more common today than in the past for those who live in technological societies to communicate with an exponentially higher number of people and with greater ease. In fact, many would consider the unavailability of cell phones and internet to be a major drawback and essentially a major inconvenience. However, there are many parts of the world where this lack of communication via cell phones and internet would only be considered trivial, mainly due to never becoming acquainted with its comforts.
In Philip K. Dick’s, Blade Runner, the world that was introduced to the audience was much more heavily based on technology than the one today. There were several key elements about human nature that was brought forth in the book that help truly understand the concept of human nature. The imperative point the book makes is how dependent the human society became on technology. This point was most clearly demonstrated by the creation of androids. Humans essentially required technology to create such elaborate machines to behave like humans themselves. As discussed in class, it was convincing the purpose for machines to both look and act like humans conveyed a certain need for humans to feel both in control of and association with other human beings. Beyond this, it exemplified the true fragility of human nature. Even as intelligent as humans are, beyond the need for survival, technology’s ultimate fate is to make human lifestyle more comfortable, even at the expense of essentially lessening the need for other real human being with simple technical replacements.
Conclusively, technology is not a direct part of human nature but it has many influences that may both define or alter human nature. As seen in Blade Runner, humans become dependant on technology where, beyond the its essential need for survival, it becomes a need for compatibility and association with other humans. As previously discussed, humans are social animals that require interactions with other social beings. As shown, most of our technological advances, beyond the need for survival and comfort, were for communication so as to interact more with other humans, or social beings. In Blade Runner, technology eventually came to replace the ultimate need to interact with other humans with the creation of androids, a synthetic social animal.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Updated 14 October 2008, 10:55 UTC. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from Internet. Retrieved 14 October 2008.

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